A large driver of our ecosystem is energy consumption. Energy is all around us and we need it to generate power for buildings, transportation, electronics, as well as heating and cooling. Electricity and the energy that creates it has become an integrated part of modern day society and it’s difficult to imagine life without it. Although energy exists all around us, we found in lecture that it is difficult to transform energy into a usable state. Primarily natural resources are used to generate energy forms that can be then transferred to areas throughout the world. In this process, a great deal of natural resources is used to generate energy and only a small percentage of it is actually used. An example would be the creation of dams, which create two ground planes and force water to rapidly fall and turn turbines, which generate energy. When the water falls, it rapidly rotates turbines, which then create mechanical energy (Ristenen 24). The mechanical energy of the turbine then uses generators to transform it into electrical energy. The electrical energy must be transmitted over high voltage transmission lines to be used in homes and communities (Ristenen 24). This process may seem harmless to our environment but in turn alters many unique ecosystems of rivers. Dams also have grown rapidly in size to force the flow of water to become stronger and stronger to turn larger turbines. So with all this dependency on energy forms such as electricity, it becomes very scary to think about what will happen when natural resources are used up and our energy production greatly collapses.
So how much natural resources does the world consume? According to Garrick Utley’s article, the world’s wealthiest sixteen percent consumes about eighty percent of the world’s natural resources (CNN). As the Earths’ population is growing exponentially, our natural resources are declining, we are using more and more energy. In 2010, America accounted for about twenty percent of the world’s primary consumption (EIA). As a society that is dependent on energy it is a necessity that we cut down on energy consumption and find alternative energy sources as well as rethinking our built environment. In 2012, nearly forty percent of the United States energy consumption was consumed in residential and commercial buildings (EIA). This poses an opportunity in the design world to rethink building systems and the way they consume energy.
The Genzyme Corporate headquarters building in Cambridge, Massachusetts demonstrates a new beginning to re-thinking the way in which buildings are designed. The architects carefully plan and create a design scheme that allows for the maximum amount of natural light to enter a large amount of space.
Behnisch Architects designed the central atrium to be a void space that allows for light to enter into the surrounding office spaces. The building uses a system of louvers and mirrors that bend light from the sun from various directions and direct light throughout the building. This type of design approach cuts back on the amount of light energy needed in buildings by using simple techniques. The sun provides light throughout the day so it makes more sense to use light that is already available instead of creating dark enclosed buildings that don’t allow for light to enter.
By changing the way we view our buildings and using smart design approaches, I feel that we will eliminate excess energy consumption. If buildings are further calibrated to receive the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the seasons and allow for natural breezes to enter in hot months part of the battle is already solved. Instead of making a closed structure that uses so much energy in order to cool and light it, we can begin to open our buildings up to the natural environment. Furthermore, I find it interesting to begin to re-think whole cities and the ways they are built. By finding more practical solutions that use sustainable resources we can begin to restructure cities and the ways in which people move around in them. I just wonder what it will look like.